Self-determination at work: Understanding the role of leader-member exchange

Laura M. Graves, Margaret M. Luciano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


Integrating self-determination theory (SDT) and leader-member exchange (LMX) theory, we explore the role of the leader in facilitating employee self-determination. We test a model of the linkages between employees' leader-member exchanges, psychological need satisfaction (i.e., satisfaction of autonomy, competence, and relatedness needs), autonomous motivation, and attitudinal outcomes. We posit that high-quality leader-member exchanges facilitate satisfaction of employees' fundamental psychological needs, which, in turn, enhance autonomous motivation and outcomes. Results for 283 working professionals supported this notion. Structural equation modeling indicated that the employee's perception of the quality of the LMX was positively related to satisfaction of the needs for competence, autonomy, and relatedness. Satisfaction of competence and autonomy needs was positively related to autonomous motivation, which, in turn, was associated with higher levels of job satisfaction, affective organizational commitment, and subjective vitality. Our findings accentuate the role of leader-employee relationships in creating self-determination at work, and reinforce the importance of self-determination for employee attitudes and well-being. Limitations, implications, and directions for future research are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)518-536
Number of pages19
JournalMotivation and Emotion
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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